(Click to enlarge spread. No, really. You must.)
Anyone else seen Elisha Cooper’s newest picture book, Train (Orchard Books, September 2013)? It’s really something, and it’s been met with a whole heapin’ handful of starred reviews. (Too many to keep up. Just trust me on this.) This is one for the senses, Cooper’s depiction of the sights and sounds and smells of the experience of riding a modern-day train. Readers start out with a red-striped Commuter Train, end with a High-Speed Train, and experience a bright blue Passenger Train, an orange Freight Train, and a dark green Overnight Train in between. We stop at small stations, sit in the cab of an engine, pass valleys of fields, witness the outskirts of a midwestern city, step inside Grand Central Station, head across the Great Plains, enjoy a dining car, watch the moon follow the train, and much more. We see the sights, smell the biscuits (and “grease and rust and burnt toast”), and hear the sounds of the train (“it sounds like the da dum da dum of a beating heart”).
There’s no shortage of children’s books about trains, but this one is exceptional for its lyricism and Cooper’s signature artistic style: Impressionistic, gestural, graceful. He segues from one train to the next without a hiccough. The book’s horizontal format is perfectly suited to the subject matter, and his spot-on pacing and very fluid sense of movement (as well as a text that flows beautifully) make these page turns compelling. As they should be in a book about a train’s forward journey.
And what breathtaking landscapes we’re treated to in this one, as only Cooper can show us. The night-time spread, pictured above, is particularly striking. Best of all, he captures the wonder of trains — and travel in general. It’s a child-like wonder that never for a second talks down to children—Cooper would never do such a thing—making this a book for all ages. But I’ll stop there, ’cause he’s visiting this morning to talk a little bit about that. The wonder, that is.
I thank him for stopping by and sharing artwork and sketches — or, in his words, “mainly paintings as they were happening.” (I have a kind of addiction to seeing Elisha-Cooper sketches.) Read the rest of this entry �